What Is Organic?
Organic is a system of growing plants and
animals in cooperation with nature, instead of trying to
overpower her. Organic is about ecosystems and remembering
that life is a circle that must remain unbroken. In
organic farming we feed the soil and the soil feeds the plants.
Healthy soil equals healthy plants equals healthy food.
In the old days, if you used natural fertilizers and
didn't use chemicals, you were organic. In recent years the USDA
(United States Department of Agriculture) has taken to regulating the
use of the word "organic." To call ones' produce or animal
products organic, farmers and processors must follow the National
Organic Standards (NOS) of the National Organic Program. Farmers
must be certified by an approved certifying agency, keep extensive
records, pay annual certification fees, and be inspected annually, in
addition to spot inspections.
Cross Island Farms became Certified Organic by NOFA-NY
Certified Organic LLC in August of 2006 and continues our certification
through NOFA-NY. The initial application took three days to
complete. The renewal only took one day! Like Kermit the
Frog says, "It ain't easy being green!"
COMPOST- Compost is one key ingredient in organic
farming. Compost is basically any rotting and/or rotted
organic matter: animal manure and bedding, leaves, grass
clippings, hay or straw, coffee grounds, kitchen scraps, rotted
seaweed, wood chips, the list goes on and on.
Good compost is made from a mixture of nitrogen-rich material
(green) and carbon-rich material (brown.) The optimum
ratio of carbon to nitrogen (the C-N) ratio is between 25:1 and
40:1. If you want to make hot, fast compost, you need to
get the ratio right. A good rule of thumb is three parts
green to one part brown. If you have too much carbon, the
compost pile won't heat up. If you have too much nitrogen,
you will smell ammonia.
But don't worry, any
organic matter piled up will eventually turn into compost; the
question is, how fast. The other important factors are
moisture and air. You want the material in the pile to
feel like a wet sponge that has been well squeezed-out, damp but
not dripping when you squeeze it. Air is important because
we want to encourage aerobic bacteria, the kind that breathe
oxygen. That is why compost piles get turned.
MULCH- Besides compost, organic mulches are
probably the other key ingredient in most organic gardening and
farming. Mulches hold in water, keep down weed, moderate
the soil temperature, and allow the soil to breathe.
Organic mulches also enrich the soil as they decay, building up
the complex soil ecosystem which is essential to healthy soil,
healthy plants, and healthy animals, including humans.
Inorganic mulches, like plastic, do not break down to feed the
Common organic mulches include leaves,
grass clippings, straw, hay, wood chips, seaweed, and
even recycled newspapers, as long as they do not contain
glossy paper or colored inks. Some care in
necessary when choosing and using mulches. For
example, heat loving plants like tomatoes, peppers, and
vine crops should not be mulched before the soil warms
up. Grass clippings should be dried before they
are put on the garden, to prevent heating. Hay may
contain weed seeds, depending on its age and condition.
But with proper use, organic mulches do wonderful things
for the soil and all that depends upon it for life.
Organic mulches are a key part of our organic garden and